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Chicago Confidential

Chicago Confidential(1957)

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teaser Chicago Confidential (1957)

A late entry in the waning film noir cycle, Chicago Confidential (1957) is, according to its trailer, "the bullet-by-bullet truth about the rape of a city at the hands of a killer mob...ripped out of tomorrow's headlines." The hyperbolic taglines came from a story about an ambitious district attorney who unwittingly uses false evidence to convict a union leader of murder. He discovers the frame-up by the real killers, power-hungry mobsters bent on taking over the union, so he sets out to prove the convicted man innocent and clean up the union, aided by the union man's girlfriend. The picture, shot on location in Chicago, benefits from strong performances from Brian Keith, Beverly Garland, and as the union leader, former crooner and "B" Western star Dick Foran.

The story was "suggested by" but not faithfully adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer. Lait was a renowned journalist in the first half of the twentieth century and one-time editor of the New York Daily Mirror, which during his tenure reached the second-highest circulation of any paper in the U.S. Mortimer was a reporter, feature writer and critic for various New York papers and worked for Lait at the Mirror as a columnist and "amusement editor." He had the distinction of being socked in the jaw by an incensed Frank Sinatra in Ciro's nightclub in the late 1940s for allegedly making an anti-Italian slur as the actor-singer passed him. Lait and Mortimer collaborated on a series of best-selling, rather lurid and pulpish "guides" to New York, Washington and Chicago. The New York book is sometimes listed as the inspiration for the film New York Confidential (1955), but the credits for that picture make no mention of Lait, Moritmer and their work. It's more likely that the producers simply borrowed the catchy title. Lait's plays, stories and novels did, however, provide the basis for several other minor movies and shorts between 1915 and 1939 such as Bad Company (1931) and Girl Without a Room (1933).

Screenwriter Bernard Gordon was originally credited on the film as Raymond T. Marcus, a pseudonym he used after being blacklisted. Gordon was subpoenaed to testify by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the anti-Communist witchhunts of the late 40s and early 50s but was never actually called to appear. An acquaintance named him before the committee as a party member and he was fired by his studio. Gordon found himself unable to get work again under his own name for several years until 55 Days at Peking (1963). In 1997, his name was restored to the credits of most of his films (more than any other blacklisted writer to be retroactively credited), but he bitterly noted in an interview that it had come "40 years too late to help my Hollywood career. I sure am angry at the way I was treated by all the major studios." He was one of the leaders of the protest against the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1999 to director Elia Kazan, who had cooperated with HUAC during the blacklist era.

Another writer whose name was originally left off the film, although it is not clear why, was Hugh King, who is also credited with producing and hosting the Discovery Channel reality series Biker Build-Off.

Director: Sidney Salkow
Producer: Robert E. Kent
Screenplay: Hugh King, Bernard Gordon, based on the book by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer
Cinematography: Kenneth Peach
Editing: Grant Whytock
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino
Original Music: Emil Newman
Cast: Brian Keith (District Attorney Jim Fremont), Beverly Garland (Laura Barton), Dick Foran (Artie Blaine), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Candymouth Duggan), Beverly Tyler (Sylvia Clarkson).

by Rob Nixon

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